Fall crankbait selection

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Bassmaster Marshal

Ask a dozen anglers what lure is best for fall cranking and you’ll get a dozen answers. Back 20 or 30 years ago, we fished B.A.S.S. tournaments into November. I learned a lot about catching fall bass in those days, especially with what I think is the best fall bass bait there is — a crankbait.

But not every crankbait will get it done. They need to have certain features to be effective. I don’t know what’s the most important, but I’ll start by talking about noise. A fall crankbait needs to have a rattle. If a bait doesn’t have a rattle, I don’t even think about fishing with it.

Beyond that I think a lot of anglers think too shallow when they’re fishing in the fall. It’s early fall, not late fall. Most of the quality bass are out on the drops and in deeper water. I’m fishing right now at around 10 feet and I’m catching them. I’m also catching a lot out around 14 to 16 feet deep.

That means I’m throwing a deep diving crankbait. Beyond the rattle I want something that gets down quick and that’ll run at its maximum depth regardless of whether I’m cranking slow or fast. That’s something you should keep in mind, too. How you retrieve a crankbait in the fall is really important.

There are times when the bass want it fast, as fast as you can crank. But at other times a slow retrieve, so slow that the bait barely wobbles, is more important. And, a steady wind is not always best. Sometimes a stop and go operation is better. You never know. It’s best to try everything until you find out what works.

Up until now I’ve been talking about standard crankbaits. But lipless baits will catch them, too, if you fish them right. In the spring all you have to do is cast one out and wind it back. That won’t work in the fall, though. You need to use a lift and drop presentation. 

Sometimes I let mine fall and then jerk it up with my rod before I let it fall back down. At other times I let it fall and raise it up with my reel while I hold my rod tip at 1:00 o’clock. Bites can come at anytime so keep your eyes open.  

There are plenty of good crankbaits on the market. I’m not saying there’s only one brand that’ll catch fall bass because that wouldn’t be true. But I do have my favorites. 

I’ll start with Berkley Dredgers. They have rattles, dive deep at any speed and, unlike other deep divers, they have a small body. They meet the standards I just talked about, and they’ll really catch bass. If you don’t use one of them I suggest you make sure what you do use meets everything I said about what you need in a fall crankbait. My lipless crankbaits are all War Pigs for the same reasons. 

The final thing I want to say is that fall bass can be really color sensitive. I’ve seen days when a small color change will make the difference between catching a good limit and coming back to the dock with nothing.

My picks are cream pie, honey shad and Lone Ranger. They all look a little bit like a shad. Cream pie is a creamy shad color with a bronze looking back. Honey isn’t much different, but it has a gold cast to it. And Lone Ranger has a chartreuse belly and a greenish-gray back. Swap them around until you find what they like.

My first choice is almost always a crankbait in the fall. The reason for that is pretty simple. I know it’ll catch me a bass.